Social Change in the Digital Age

Università IULM

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Social Change in the Digital Age

  • Host University

    Università IULM

  • Location

    Milan, Italy

  • Area of Study

    Communication Studies, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Training objectives of the course

    In line with the general learning outcomes of the degree course and with the specific objectives of the subject area, this course introduces students to a diverse set of readings about technology’s impact on the social, cultural, natural, and political spheres, encouraging them to apply the conceptual frameworks and empirical findings discussed in the course to make sense of current events.
    Specifically, the course will help students to:
    - Familiarize themselves with the most up-to-date literature in several technological, social, environmental, and cultural change disciplines.
    - Understand how to critically examine an academic text, comparing contrasting views, ideas, and concepts, and formulating hypotheses based on the available information.
    - Develop an understanding of the role of technology and media in the shaping and development of communication, culture, society, and politics by critically examining different theoretical approaches and several case studies.
    - Craft an ability to critically appreciate and discuss the cultural and social role that technologies play in relation to class, sex, and gender.
    - Consider challenges and opportunities, possible outcomes and plausible endgames, connecting them to a larger socio-cultural framework by applying an ecological, holistic approach.
    - Ultimately, develop an approach not limited to fully understanding a problem but also open to the possibility of realistic solutions or predictions about what might replace a contingent situation deemed “inevitable”.

    Course programme

    Social Change in the Digital Age investigates some of the most complex challenges society faces today, both at a macro and micro level. It does so by examining four keywords that inform the contemporary moment: failure, apocalypse, crisis, and pollution. The underlying principle is that these dynamics, at this moment understood both literally and metaphorically, are not an anomaly but rather constitute the standard operating procedure within capitalism. To illustrate and articulate this apparent paradox, we will discuss several environments, contexts and case studies, including Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the climate change debacle, the role of technology in facilitating the spread of misinformation and disinformation, mass migrations, and a general sense of political impasse, focussing on the narratives and conceptual frameworks that we use to make sense of an increasingly undecipherable world.

    Topics of discussion include:
    ● the relationship between technology, society, media, the environment and politics through the contributions of several international scholars and thinkers;
    ● the state of the world in ten, twenty, fifty years from now. Will automation lead us to the end of work or completely undermine an economy built on full employment? Will technological innovation reduce the value of commodities – e.g. food, healthcare and housing – to zero? Will improvements in renewable energy make fossil fuels a thing of the past, or will we be tied to Big Oil for the next century? Will technology become a tool of pervasive surveillance and oppression or a liberating force that could transform our daily life? What kinds of political frameworks will prevail? Is capitalism doomed, or is it just transforming itself? Will existing trends intensify our best tendencies toward freedom and equality, or our worst, toward hierarchy, exploitation and mutual indifference?
    ● different scenarios, predictions and forecasts about things to come - including “provocative” and “outlandish” ones borrowed from apparently distant disciplines such as social theory, media studies, technology studies and science fiction - will be played out and critically discussed in class.

    Didactic Methods

    In line with the learning outcomes of the programme, the course will consist of lectures, seminars and in-class discussions on specific topics concerning the relationship between technology, society, culture and politics.

    Course materials, required texts, and the test will be identical for all enrolled students. Nonetheless, attendance is strongly recommended.
    Useful resources, such as in-class presentations, summaries, videos, documentaries and additional content, will be shared via the university's Moodle platform, IULM Community (students must register to access this space).

    Learning assessment procedures

    In line with the learning outcomes of the programme, all students will be required to take a mandatory final exam, consisting of a computer test featuring 30 closed questions. There are no penalties for a wrong or missed answer, and the pass grade is 18. The oral exam - which may replace but not supplement the written test and is upon request - has the same format as the written test to ensure consistency.

    Finally, students can take on an optional project for extra credit.

    All students will be evaluated on their understanding of the key concepts and ideas discussed throughout the semester. Thus, a close analysis of the required texts is indispensable. The exam also focuses on the content of the lecture presentations, case studies, workshops and shared resources such as summaries, diagrams, flowcharts, concept maps, and notes. Sample questions will be provided in advance via the IULM Community platform so that students can get a better understanding of what is expected.

    Students can also submit an optional multimedia project consisting of a short video essay on a theme chosen by the instructor worth 0 to 3 points that will be added to the written test score. For more information about the optional multimedia project, including requirements, format, duration, and submission deadline, please visit the course page on IULM's Moodle platform.


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